Hockey is in Jailyn Bablitz’s blood.
“My family all played and I was at the rink at an early age, I guess you could say I was born into it,” said the RDP Queens second-year winger from Valleyview.
It’s that love of the sport and desire to be the best she can be that has propelled the 19-year-old to the top of the team scoring race this season.
Jailyn has three goals and three assists in six games after scoring twice and adding two helpers in 15 starts last season.
“The experience she gained that first year was invaluable,” said Queens assistant coach Amy Friestadt. “She didn’t play AAA (playing with the Peace Country Storm U18AA) and was up against a lot bigger girls and you can see that confidence this year … she’s so much better for sure.”
Jailyn not only leads the Queens in scoring but has scored a couple of game-winners as well.
“She scores at the right times,” added Friestadt.” She’s stepped up and is effective in her role. With her size (five-foot-three) she’s n0t a grinder, but she knows her role and embraces it.”
Jailyn grew up playing boys hockey in Valleyview before joining the program in Grande Prairie in her second year of peewee. She played in the Peace Country AA program before being recruited by Queens head coach Kelly Coulter.
“Kelly contacted me around Christmas (of 2020), made me an offer and I quickly accepted it,” she explained.
The offer came during the Covid season when she played only two games.
“I sent out my profile to coaches but it was tough because we didn’t play, but it worked out,” she said.
Last year proved to be a building year in more ways than one.
“Being off so long you had to build up your fitness again and build up confidence,” she said. “It took time just to be calm with the puck and have confidence with your abilities.”
Taking the step into college hockey was also a learning experience.
“For sure. The goalies are all better so you have to shoot that much harder and pick your spots … you have to have a quick release, get your shots away quicker,” she said. “There are a lot of bigger players and older players so that’s something to get used to as well.”
Jailyn looks at herself as an all-around player … someone who can score a bit, works hard and can keep up the play.
“I was never a natural skater, but that’s something I’ve worked hard at,” she said.
The fact the Queens home ice surface is slightly bigger is something she enjoys.
“It gives you that much more space so you’re not trapped with the puck,” she said.
Jailyn played her part last season as the Queens captured the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference title.
“We knew coming back we’re a good team, and also know we have to work hard to get the same results,” she said. “There will be nothing given to us and we know everyone will be gunning for us, which means we have to play harder every game as there will be no easy games.”
Now as a veteran Jailyn will be one of the team leaders.
“It’s nice to come back as a veteran as I’m way more comfortable as I know the players and know what to expect.”
Friestadt already sees Jailyn’s leadership.
“She’ll be here for a couple more years for sure and has great potential in that area, in fact he’s already a leader as she understands the game and what we want. She works hard and studies the game and knows what’s going on and what it takes to be better.
“Evan as a second-year player she’s finding her voice in the dressing room and wants to be a leader for sure.”
Jailyn is working on her Education Degree to teach elementary students and will receive her degree at RDP.
“That means I’ll be here for at least four years which is good,” she said.
And all indications are she’ll continue to improve each year.
“My goal is to get one per cent better every day,” she said.
The Queens return to action Sunday when they host the 6-0-0 NAIT Ooks at 7 p.m. at the Gary W Harris Canada Games Centre. The Queens are second sitting at 4-2-1.
“It’s a tough start to the second half but it’s a good way in that it’s a battle for first place and we’ll have to be ready to go right away,” said Bablitz.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org